Baltimore mayor's trial to begin Thursday

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon is accused of buying personal items using gift cards donated to her office.
Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon is accused of buying personal items using gift cards donated to her office. (Rob Carr/associated Press)
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By The Baltimore Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The jury of nine women and three men chosen for Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon's trial on theft charges will begin work Thursday, but first a judge will weigh new allegations involving another batch of gift cards said to have been donated by a developer not previously named in the case.

Two city developers, Patrick Turner and Ronald H. Lipscomb, have been identified as potential witnesses in the case, and a defense motion filed Tuesday reveals that prosecutors want a third developer to testify. The mayor is accused of buying personal items with at least $1,500 in retail gift cards donated to her office for use by needy families.

The newly named developer, Glenn Charlow, donated gift cards to Dixon to be used "in connection with her church activities," according to papers filed in court by the mayor's attorneys in an effort to block his testimony.

Dixon's attorneys object to the new testimony because, they say, prosecutors interviewed Charlow in June 2008 but did not disclose key information until Friday, on the eve of the trial.

Judge Dennis M. Sweeney said he will take up at least some of the numerous pretrial motions before jurors arrive in the courtroom Thursday. Courts are closed Wednesday for Veterans Day.

The 12 jurors and six alternates -- three-quarters of whom are black -- speak "to Baltimore City's demographics," said Douglas Colbert, a University of Maryland law professor who observed jury selection. "I would expect that both sides feel very satisfied with that."

No other information about the jurors or alternates, including their names, ages or races, has been made public.

Dixon, 55, faces seven theft-related counts in this trial. She is also scheduled to stand trial in March on perjury charges. In that case, she is accused of failing to disclose gifts from Lipscomb, her former boyfriend. At the time, she was president of the City Council, and Lipscomb was doing business with the city.

If convicted on any charge in either case, Dixon would have to step down and would lose her annual $83,000 pension. She could also face a fine or jail time.

The mayor told reporters Tuesday night that she is "fine." She predicted that the jury will "provide a good balance and a fair trial."

A half-hour later, as she left, Dixon was asked whether it was awkward to attend public events while on trial.

"I'm the mayor of the city," she said. "I represent the city. I love going out to events. I don't feel awkward at all. You might feel awkward, but that is on you."

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